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As CDC Changes Course on COVID Guidelines, Stores See Resurgence in Mask Sales

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Masks, which had started to disappear from store shelves, might be front and center again.

An analysis of businesses and other data sources is showing that mask sales have been rising in recent weeks as Americans worry about the so-called delta variant of the coronavirus.

Mask sales were expected to get another jolt after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday changed course on masking guidelines, recommending that even vaccinated people return to wearing masks indoors in parts of the U.S. where transmission rates are high.

Sales of masks rose 24 percent for the week that ended Tuesday compared to the prior week, reversing weekly declines since May, according to the Adobe Digital Economy Index.

San Francisco-based grocery delivery company Instacart said mask sales via its online platform have increased since the Fourth of July weekend, reversing a decline that had begun in April. And Google reported that searches for the term “masks” doubled since the CDC announcement.

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The scenario marks a shift from the past two months when masks were heavily discounted and were being pushed to the side on the sales floor following the CDC move to relax mask guidance in May.

Even before then, data from NielsenIQ shows that mask sales started to consistently decline weekly since early April, going from $101 million worth of masks to roughly $37 million for the week ending July 3. It doesn’t yet have July sales figures.

“People were just not buying them. Masks were really fading out,” said Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData Retail.

For many stores in an overall retail sales slump last year, masks were a bright spot. Gap, along with its portfolio of brands including Old Navy and Athleta, made millions of dollars on masks.

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Etsy, a global online marketplace for handmade goods, has seen its masks go from 14 percent of gross merchandise sales in the second quarter of 2020 to less than 3 percent in the first quarter of 2021.

Since the onset of the pandemic, 3M Co. increased its annual production of N95 masks fourfold to 2.5 billion. It said that global demand reached its peak in the first quarter of this year, which included stockpiling from governments and hospitals.

It is now seeing a deceleration in overall demand and is adjusting production.

But 3M CEO Mike Roman told analysts on Tuesday that it is “prepared to increase production in response to COVID-19-related needs or future emergencies when needed.”

Honeywell International Inc., another big manufacturer of N95 masks, said it “continues to produce N95 masks in the U.S. to meet the needs of frontline and essential workers.”

The Western Journal has reviewed this Associated Press story and may have altered it prior to publication to ensure that it meets our editorial standards.

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